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The English Landscape Garden

The far-off twinkle of a lake and stream, a temple or castle on a hill, absolutely nothing is more lovely, or more 'English', than an 18th-century landscape garden. Canals and unique landscapes dot the rolling countryside, occasionally peeking from the misty British haze. Lord Cobham had grand plans when he commissioned his brand-new garden at Stowe in Buckinghamshire from the famous designer Charles Bridgeman in 1713. Dealing with the designer Sir John Vanbrugh, Bridgeman, of whom history leaves little mention, produced a grand baroque garden, connected intimately to the landscape, but with hardly any view at all. A walled ditch helped keep out livestock and deer, thus preventing them from ruining the yards, pastures, and woods.

The Elysian Fields

At Stowe, Kent's biggest accomplishment, the development of the Elysian Fields gave birth to a shallow woody valley with a babbling brook to represent the river Styx, with a temple on each side. Gibbs' Temple of Ancient Virtues (1736) consisted of select classical touches, inspired by Homer, Socrates, and the legal representative Lycurgus. Throughout the valley, Kent's Temple of British Worthies is protected by statues consisting of Alfred the Great, Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, William III, John Locke, Milton, and Newton. The grand garden, like Henry Hoare's at Stourhead - ended up in a collection of photos, although nothing was ever written of it. The design was mainly green, given that he felt there was a lot of charm in trees and shrubs, and emphasized by the play of light and shade. At Chatsworth he scooped away hills; at Blenheim he dammed the river to make 2 excellent lakes; at Milton Abbas in Dorset, his designs moved an entire town out of sight. And from the late 18th century to today, visitors return to Stourhead, Wilton and Longleat, Chatsworth and Stowe, Rousham and Blenheim, all there to rejoice in the magic of the English landscape garden.




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